Pandemic may have positive benefit for B.C. grape growers by freeing up local labour - InfoNews

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Pandemic may have positive benefit for B.C. grape growers by freeing up local labour

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March 30, 2020 - 6:00 AM

A recent decision by the federal government is allowing foreign agricultural workers to enter the country, but delays in getting them here caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means there is still a labour shortage in the province’s agricultural sector.

B.C. Grape Growers' Association program administrator Tyrion Miskell said some members are showing interest in hiring local workers, with some growers having already done so.

“It’s still early in the season, but as more people adjust to the new circumstances and we get the word out, we will be seeing more interest from the local job market,” Miskell said in an email Friday, March 27.

Miskell said work is available in local vineyards now.

“Growers are adapting new protocols to keep staff safe and continue to do business as usual. Anyone interested in working in a vineyard should check the federal job bank as well as Work B.C. and get in touch with local wineries themselves,” she said.

B.C. Fruit Growers' Association executive director Glen Lucas said last week the industry was in catch-up mode.

The Okanagan fruit industry employs about 4,500 Mexican and Caribbean workers through the Temporary Foreign Workers program, Lucas said. The bulk of those are needed for harvest season, which starts in June for cherries. However, they will need to hire local workers due to the uncertainty with backpackers and Quebec residents who normally work in the orchards.

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